SAMOGITIANS: THE DEVELOPMENT OF INFLEXIONAL ENDINGS AND THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE DIVERGENCE OF DIALECTS *
By Aleksas Stanislovas Girdenis
§ 1. At present the scientific gap between archaeologists and linguists is becoming more and more apparent. The former (cf. Tautavičius, 1981; 1991), relying on weighty arguments, maintain that the Samogitians (or elsewhere, Low Lithuanians, Zemaitians; Lith. Zemaiciai) as a separate union of Baltic tribes formed as back as the 5th c. A. D.; the latter are inclined to support Salys’ conclusion (Salys, 1933) that our major dialects first appeared a millennium later. The shy attempts to transfer the divergence of those dialects to somewhat earlier times (Girdenis, 1971) were disapproved by both archaeologists (cf. Tautavičius, 1991) and language historians: the latter continue to maintain that the dialects are comparatively young and that their essential differences can be accounted for by the strong influence of the dying Curonian (Lith. Kursiai) language in the 15–16th centuries (Zinkevicius, 1981)
Proceeding with my thoughts and assumptions expressed a little earlier (Girdenis, 1992), I will try to show here that the North Samogitian dialect has preserved a number of inflexional phenomena, the stratification of which corroborates the archaeologists’ point of view or at least approximates the linguistic dating of dialectal divergence to the archaeological dating.
§ 2. Earlier investigations have demonstrated that the chronology of Samogitian divergence can be ascertained with greater exactness by the evolution of the inflexional endings since it is the only thing which can be broken into distinct layers resembling geological or archaeological strata. Therefore, further attention will be given to inflexional endings. Ample literature on Lithuanian dialectology (e. g. the works by Salys, Grinaveckis, Zinkevicius, the published volumes of “Atlas of the Lithuanian Language”, etc.), from which even less informed readers can form a clear picture of the distinctive features of the dialect and its more detailed classification, gives us the right to confine ourselves to this rather narrow and special field of research.
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All these changes probably took place in the course of 600 years, for they started in about 1300 and were over in 1900. If we simplified the real situation and supposed that the rate of the development was regular, we could state that the Samogitian endings underwent two essential changes every 135 years. Though this rate of the development is quite relative (a language cannot change very regularly), it rather well corresponds to some credibly documented facts from the history of the dialect. As has been mentioned, Salys (1933) proved that affricates in the Samogitian dialect started arising after the death of Vytautas the Great – according to our hypothesis, this was the second event after the Law of Leskien. Having added to the approximate date of this law (~ 1300) the average duration of two ending changes (~ 135), we get the date (~ 1435) which perfectly corroborates Salys’ conclusion (Vytautas died before 1435). The opposite reckoning does not contradict the documented facts either. The fourth reduction of endings (the 7th stage of the development), most probably, started in about 1765 (1900 – 135= 1765) – in the mentioned “Ziwatas” of 1759 we do not detect any of its signs, as in the dialect of the translator of this book even -ć < *-e, *-`a is well differentiated from -ć (see, e. g. § 5).
§ 17. Since the number of wordźending changes during the period of 600 years, from the Law of Leskien till the end of the 19th c. (i.e. approximately from 1300 till 1900), was the same as that from the beginning of the development of the divergency till the said law, it can be said with confidence that the time period separating this particular beginning from the Law of Leskien is by no means shorter. In this case, with respect to their language, Samogitians started drifting away from the future High Lithuanians not later than in the 7th c. A. D. – in about 700 (1300–600 = 700).
Having in mind the fact that the 14–19th centuries in the history of Lithuanian tribes and dialects were more dynamic than the previous epoch and that in such turbulent times the language had to develop much faster, we could guess that the first peculiar features in the phonetic of the Samogitian dialect arose much earlier – even in the 5th c., which is not often mentioned by archaeologists, especially A. Tautavičius (1981; 1992). But the truth is that the 7th c. is also sufficiently significant for linguists, for at that time the common East Baltic ancestor language must have split into separate tribal languages (see Bűga, 1961; Urbutis, 1962). Samogitians most probably spoke one of those languages (we have no doubts about the rest of them – Semigalians, Selonians, Latgalians and Lithuanians). Samogitians and Lithuanians might have drawn together later – in the consolidated Lithuanian state.
Thus, we may state that the Samogitian tribal language turned into a dialect of the Lithuanian language not in the process of linguistic divergency – their present closeness to High Lithuanians was conditioned by the processes of convergency. It is known that under complicated historical circumstances the changing of a language can be neither straight nor simple; therefore, divergency and convergency most often intertwine –let us remember the possible mixing of Curonians with Samogitians… But the main direction or trend of the development, however, could hardly have been different.
* Science, Arts, and Lithuania. 1992. Vol. 3 (2–3). P. 95–101.
The article has been subjected to considerable revision and improvement (for this special thanks are due to Prof. Dr. habil. Laimutis Valeika); the original title of the article has been modified, too.
© Samogitian Cultural
Association Editorial Board, 1998.